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Cavanaugh adjusting to Tebow, and excited about what he can do

Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh talks with Mark Sanchez

Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh talks with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow during the Jets' first day of training camp at SUNY Cortland. (July 27, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

It's the dilemma of every quarterbacks coach/

There just aren't enough practice reps to go around for backups, even if it happens to be Tim Tebow.

Despite the big plans the Jets (we assume) have for him, Matt Cavanaugh's hands essentially are tied. Mark Sanchez's starting role dictates that he should, and will, get the bulk of the practice snaps, the QBs coach said.

"It is not any different than any other place where the No. 2 quarterback is happy whenever he can get some reps," Cavanaugh said Thursday, in his first interview this season. "We just have to make sure they are the right ones for that week."

Though he dabbled in the Wildcat while a college offensive coordinator at Pitt ("I actually visited Arkansas and kind of stole their Wildcat and ran it with LeSean McCoy"), Cavanaugh admitted the Tebow experience has "been a learning experience for me." 

But the position coach -- who was a backup quarterback on the 49ers and Giants' Super Bowl teams in 1984 and 1990, respectively -- said Tebow's unique skillset opens up a variety of doors for the Jets offense.

"Being around Tim and hearing him talk about some of the other things he has done and what he's capable of doing, it's pretty exciting," he said. "It adds another dimension to coaching a quarterback.

"...There is a broad spectrum of things you can do with him, but it is also time consuming," he admitted. "With Sanchez getting the majority of reps, for obvious reasons, there are just things you do not have time to work on. We play around with it each week and put a little package together and decide if we need to use it."

When word quickly spread within the organization that the Tebow deal was done, Cavanugh said he made no assumptions about the former Bronco starter. He measures each quarterback that comes his way against the same litmus test: Is he a football player or not?

"I think that answers itself," he said. "He's a football player. so give me all the football players you can find. We'll find a way to help him help us and I think that's where we're at right now.

"We're excited to have him. He's excited to be here and he's a football player. I think when it's all said and done, he's going to help us win a lot of games."

Much has been made about Tebow's unorthodox throwing motion. As Cavanaugh put it, that part of the backup quarterback's game has been "overanalyzed." But he chose to keep their discussions about Tebow's throwing motion private.

"The nature of the business is people are going to evaluate you," he said. "As his coach, the things I talk to him about, about his delivery, about his accuracy, about the way he runs, the way he studies, the way he eats, the way he sleeps, that's between him and I."


- The timing between Sanchez and his receivers was “spotty” during the preseason due to injuries to the wide receiver corps. But over the past few weeks, Cavanaugh said he’s see them “start to click.”

“You’ve seen certain routes thrown with the timing just right,” he said. “The location (was) just right and their landmarks were just right. I think they are getting very close. It is definitely improved. It was off a little bit early in the preseason and in summer camp when they were in for a day and out for a day. I think they are working hard at it and it is getting close.”

As for the chemistry between Sanchez and Holmes, specifically, Cavanaugh said: “It was addressed really quickly (this off-season). They get along great. They really do.”

- Cavanaugh was well aware the Jets were scouring the league looking for his potential replacement. But he said he wasn’t worried the team might cut him loose this offseason.

“I’ve been cut, traded, fired,” he said. “That’s the business. If you put more thought into it than that, you’re going to be driven crazy. I love it here, I like working with the quarterbacks here, I was hoping that I could stay (and) I was thrilled that I got to say. I understand the business, and I’m confident enough that if I wasn’t here, I would have been somewhere else.”

- Despite public perception, Cavanaugh said Sanchez is assertive with his players – and coaches – when needed. Though the quarterbacks coach said he encourages guys “to be natural” and do what works for them. But, he quickly added, Sanchez’s laidback demeanor doesn’t mean he’s a softie.

“Take this the right way,” the coach said, “you don’t get to see him in all the dimensions that I get to see him. He’s a very competitive person and he works his ass off daily, at being the best he can be. …I think he is a little laid back. But don’t confuse that for not wanting it really bad and doing whatever he has to do to get it.

“Sometimes, you’re not privy to those little conversations we have sometimes, and I say we, he and the coaches. That goes on everywhere, with every team, and at some point, you need to convince a player or the player needs to convince you that this is what’s going to get done. That’s everyday stuff to us and I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

During training camp, linebacker Bart Scott detailed the difference in Sanchez's demeanor on the field in years past versus Eli Manning’s “ultimate poker face.” On Thursday, Cavanaugh admitted, with a laugh, that his starting quarterback "was a little dramatic sometimes."

"You play this position and you play it almost every down that he's played in the last three years, you’re going to take hits," he said, referring to Sanchez's dedication to increasing his weight, flexibility and mobility during the offseason. 

"If you don't train and make yourself stronger, those are going to make you miss some plays, and he knows that. Secondly, I wanted him stronger. We wanted him stronger, in his lower body because he needed to be a little more explosive. He's not a real fast guy, I think we'd all admit, but you don't have to be fast to play the position. You have to be able to escape, stand tall in the pocket, guys draped all over you and make a throw."

So is physical appearance/strength the biggest change in Sanchez?

"Not the biggest," Cavanaugh said. "No, I've seen him change mentally. I've seen him get smarter. The game's slowing down a little bit for him. Keep in mind, he's played a lot of football as a rookie and he really wasn't quite sure what was going on out there. He got a little bit better the next year, got a little bit better the next year, he's going to get better this year.

"Playing this position takes time, and he's showing me all the signs of a guy who's going in the right direction. He's starting to understand what it takes to play every week and be ready. So I'm excited about it for him." 

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